Why Are TSA Agents So Rude? (11 Reasons Why)

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Oberon Copeland

Oberon Copeland is a graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, with a degree in economics and HR.

Many government agencies- specifically ones whose names comprise of three-letter acronyms- are well-despised by many Americans, including the IRS, the FDA, the EPA, and the VA.

However, one government agency is despised above most of the others- except for the IRS, perhaps. The Transporation Security Administration, or TSA, is known for its rude employees!

Why Are TSA Agents So Rude?


1. They Are Not Cops

As much as they wish that they were, TSA agents are not police offers!

TSA agents do not hold the authority or command that police officers do, and people do not feel as obligated to follow the directions of a TSA agent.

In many cases, even cops dislike TSA agents and do not see them as members of law enforcement.

While TSA agents can detain people that may be a threat, they have no actual power to arrest anybody, much to their dismay.

Ultimately, TSA agents can be jealous of true law enforcement officers and attempt to emulate them.

2. TSA Agents Are Uneducated

Many TSA agents do not have a higher education, and the only educational requirement for application at the TSA is having a high school diploma or a GED.

This requirement means that, while TSA agents are required to have made it up at some point, many of them can be high-school dropouts.

There is nothing wrong with only having a high school diploma, but it can contribute to the insecurity of a TSA agent.

Despite that, you would probably prefer if an airplane security officer had some sort of higher education!

After all, you don’t want them to accuse you of being a potential terrorist for having a water bottle.

3. TSA Agents Are Insecure

You have heard of TSA agents being insecure several times now. Many factors contribute to the insecurity of TSA agents, including low job quality and lack of authority.

When somebody is insecure, they are more prone to lashing out against other people.

4. TSA Agents Are Paid Poorly

The starting salary for TSA agents is $35,000, putting them at almost half the starting salary of law enforcement officers or even a manager at the pizza chain called  “Domino’s.”

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With this low salary, TSA agents may feel underpaid and are less likely to behave professionally!

5. Most TSA Agents Are Part-Time

Experts estimate that up to two-thirds of TSA agents may be part-time, meaning that TSA agents are even more poorly-paid than previously expected.

6. TSA Does Not Set Expectations

TSA Does Not Set Expectations

TSA guidelines vary from airport to airport or even from day to day, with employees frequently not knowing their guidelines until they have already changed.

With these frequently-changing guidelines and a lack of communication to their employees regarding professional standards, TSA agents can be unequipped for their jobs.

7. TSA Agents Face Mandatory Overtime

Due to their poor working conditions, the TSA faces a high rate of turnover and loses employees faster than they can the TSA can hire them.

The TSA also has no protocol for filling vacant positions, instead relying on forcing agents into mandatory overtime.

This policy means that many TSA agents are not only unequipped and underpaid but also overworked! This trinity can be dangerous for anybody and can cause a bad attitude.

8. No Hiring Standards

Aside from its educational requirements and only one mandatory year of security experience, the TSA does not have any particular requirements for hiring.

This lack of requirements means that just about anybody can get hired by the TSA, lowering the general requirements for the position and making it possible to hire outright mean people.

9. They See Too Many People

TSA agents see a large number of people every day- before COVID came into the world, the TSA averaged traffic of 2.5 million people every day, nationwide.

With the low wages, poor training, and long hours that come with being a TSA agent, some agents may feel ill-equipped or underpaid to deal with such a large volume of people.

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While a particularly energetic and outgoing person might be excited at the prospect of dealing with so many people, this is an extremely high volume of people.

Even most receptionists and secretaries, another notoriously rude group, do not see a fraction of the number of people that TSA agents do throughout their career!

After dealing with so many people, many of whom can be stressed out, churlish, or seem dumb, a TSA agent might get angry or upset, and there are not many people who could blame them!

Many people also disregard or ridicule the commands of TSA agents, and when that happens multiple times over the day, it can get irritating.

Of course, many people behave like this for a reason and the TSA agents often respond disproportionately- but you’ll read more of that in short order.

10. Nobody Likes Them

This reason may seem somewhat circular, but it’s a genuine response. Many TSA agents can be rude because people dislike their organization, and they know that!

If everybody hated you and you were well aware of their distaste towards you, the odds are high that you would feel somewhat bitter about it. You would likely be rude to everybody!

TSA agents are in a similar situation. The TSA is one of the most-hated American government agencies, and many TSA agents are fully aware of the public’s dislike of their profession.

Several surveys have shown that anywhere from 42% to 57% of adult fliers are disturbed or outright angered by TSA’s so-called security measures, such as patdowns and full-body scans.

Many fliers are more than happy to make their distaste for the TSA agents known, with TSA reaching four-thousand complaints per month at its peak since making complaint data public.

The TSA is also known for its scanners and devices wantonly destroying the property of others.

In some cases, like with insulin pumps, this destruction can have a severe effect on the health of the flier.

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As more stories like these permeate the public consciousness, trust for the TSA goes down even further.

While there are many reasons to dislike the TSA, the public hatred for the TSA is one of the reasons why TSA agents can be so rude.

This perpetuates a cycle where TSA agents continue to be rude and Americans continue to despise them, but it’s no excuse for the behavior of TSA agents!

11. They See Themselves As Authority

Many TSA figures see themselves as authoritative figures, much like the police offers who they seek to emulate.

However, unlike the police, most TSA agents don’t have any significant power to back up anything they attempt to do.

When a TSA agent is disrespected or ignored, they think that the action is a slight against their perceived omniscient authority.

However, TSA agents can not do anything about it aside from detaining the flier for an extra amount of time, though this can result in a nightmare for public relations.

TSA agents can be disproportionately rude because they believe that they are the supreme authority in the airport and dislike when people treat them flippantly.

In reality, people only treat the TSA agents poorly because they were so rude in the first place!

To learn more, you can also read our posts on why hairdressers are so rude, why 911 operators are so rude, and why paparazzi are so rude.

In Conclusion

Ultimately, you can see why there are many reasons that TSA agents can be so rude. Whether the brutal conditions of the job, the lack of pay, or the customers, TSA agents are not happy!

Unfortunately, they are an American fact of life, regardless of their popularity or the quality of their job performance. All anybody can do is hope their TSA agents are in a good mood!

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